Someone asked me last night for a recipe I use. That never happens, and it felt nice. To me, cooking is a great way to indulge creativity, do fun things and demonstrate you care for the people you cook for.
It’s so core.
<glossing over the fact that I don’t cook much for myself>
Of course, it was my carbonara recipe, something I’ve never made the same was twice in my life.
I made it for my Monday Night Supper Club peeps a few months back and it was met with rave reviews.
My response, “C’mon, guys…it’s just carbonara!” I was amazed to hear that no one had had it. Not even the Silver Fox, who I consider quite a cook and rather world-wise. Secretly, I thought he was messing with me. But then again, I made it for my family and they’d never had it before, either.
At this point, I began thinking that maybe they had had it and I was just making it wrong. Hehe.
Then again, before 2006, I couldn’t say that I’d had it.
I walked into my kitchen classroom at the Sur la Table I was working at in Kirkland, WA and my store’s Resident Chef was creating.
And he’s made quite a name for himself, just like I knew he would. I’ve largely held a static level of accomplishment…but carbonara helps.
He slides me this plate and tells me to dig in. I had a foodgasm.
“I figured you for a carbonara guy, Galby” he tells me, smiling. “Pasta, bacon, eggs, cheese…what’s not to like? It’s like breakfast in pasta”, he continues.
I couldn’t respond, I was inhaling.
A few years later, I started playing around with it. I tried googling a recipe and realized that there’s no one way to make this dish.
The core argument seems to be around whether you add frozen peas or if that’s a bastardization too far.
I like peas. And I like a hint of color.
So I usually include them because I think it makes for a more appealing plate. You’ll have to decide for yourself…it’s obviously both a deeply personal choice and a hornet’s nest.
So, aside from frozen peas, maybe, the shopping list is pretty simple:
One 1 lb box of spaghetti style pasta
Three large eggs – the yolks are another debate-slash-variable.
One third cup each of grated pecorino and reggiano cheese.
8 oz (or more!) of bacon or pancetta.
A few cloves of garlic…just a hint.
One third cup of heavy whipping cream – depending on the yolk situation.
I’m a big fan of the mis en place method of cooking, so that everything is ready to go when I start. So, I’ll slice the bacon into 1/4″ strips, mince the garlic, dice the shallot, grate the cheeses and let my eggs come to room temp before I even boil my water.
But once everything is prepped and I put the water on? The meal is basically done, so be ready to eat!
I think with the MNSC, I got to this point and then waited for everyone to arrive before continuing.
And, by “waited”, I mean, “opened a bottle of wine”. Basically, I made this while I was buzzed.
So, the water’s on to boil.
I brown the bacon and then when it’s almost done, start spooning off the fat, then throw in the garlic and shallot to soften.
At some point while the bacon has been going, I’ve thrown in the pasta – and possibly the peas – and it should be about done as the bacon concoction finishes up.
While those two things were happening, I’ve cracked my eggs and either whisked the yolks (I’ve used anywhere from 0 to all 3 in my experiments) into them or taken just the whites and whisked the cream into them and added the cheese.
Hold some cheese back for topping the dish, for God’s sake!
I recommend holding back about a third of a cup of pasta water, just in case you need to goose the sauce along. More on that in a second.
Drain the pasta and then do one of three things:
Return it to the pot, add in the bacon/garlic/shallot situation, pour on the egg/cheese sauce and then stir! You will hear people talk about the terror of ending up with pasta and scrambled eggs at this point…but it’s never happened to me.
Obviously, I recommend cooking with the wine technique.
My biggest stress is usually just getting the cheese evenly distributed. It does tend to clump together.
No, Dori…just keep stirring!
If you need help loosening this sauce up, add in some of that pasta water. I find that the egg and yolk route tends to need this little trick more that the egg and cream method. Nevertheless, it’s good to have on hand
Once you’ve got a good coating, transfer the finished dish to your serving bowl.
The second option is to dump everything into your serving bowl and mix there, ya cocky bastards. One less step.
Or…if you’re a real pro, like Joel is – seriously, watch his show Scraps or his YouTube channel – you add the strained pasta to the fry pan your bacon is in.
Mix the pasta and bacon around before adding in the egg and cheese mixture. This allows the wet pasta to kinda deglaze the bacon fond adding a lot of flavor to the situation. And some cool color to the pasta.
I usually make a double batch, so I don’t do this since my fry pan is too small for 2 lbs of pasta.
And I’m not a pro, like Joel.
Now, a single batch allegedly serves 4. I think it serves one Xtopher, so if I have company, I double up.
Make this now. You won’t be sorry, and